Menzel, Florian Dr.
|since 2011||Group Leader at the Institute of Zoology, University of Mainz|
|2009-2011||Research and teaching at the community Ecology group, Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Bern|
|2006-2009||PhD thesis: "Mechanisms and adaptive significance of interspecific assocations between tropical ant species"; field work in Sabah and Sarawak/Malaysian Borneo|
|2005||Diploma thesis: "Crematogaster-Camponotus Associations in a Tropical Rainforest: Mechanisms and Specificity of Interspecific Recognition"; field work in Sabah/Malaysian Borneo|
|2000-2005||studies in Biology at the University of Würzburg (Germany), including two semesters at Duke University (Durham, NC, USA) and research semester at Gruffith University (Brisbane, Australia)|
My research focuses on interspecific interactions in ants. Certain ant species notably often occur together. For example, the Mediterranean ants Crematogaster scutellaris and Camponotus lateralis are associated: They are frequently found close to each other, even on the same foraging trails, and often nest close to each other. Other species, in contrast, occur in the same habitat but never in the same territory. In the tropics, e.g. in Southeast Asia or tropical South America, there are even closer associations. There are ant nests that are shared by two ant species – the so-called parabioses. These associations are rare in general, but very frequent among certain species pairings. Why do these species occur together, even share the same nest, while others are never found together? In a broader sense, this question can be extended to the general mechanisms of community assembly – which species co-exist in a community, and which do not. In my research I try to find the proximate and ultimate causes for species co-occurrence.
For the proximate causes, I study the behavioural and chemical mechanisms of interspecific recognition. For example, whether or not a dominant ant species recognizes another species as competitor and aggressively displaces it, essentially determines whether the species can coexist. Thus, interspecific recognition greatly influences the composition of an ant community. I study interspecific recognition using aggression bioassays with living ants, and investigate the chemical recognition cues using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS).
The ultimate causes indicate which benefits the species have from living together, or co-existing – and whether there is a benefit at all or whether the associations actually pose costs on one of the partners. Thus, are these associations mutualistic, commensalistic or parasitic?
Furthermore, I am studying interspecific communication between ants and one of their most important partners – aphids and other trophobionts. Ants often tend aphids or related insects in order to obtain honeydew, which constitutes a major part of the diet for many ant species. How the partners find and recognize each other has been little studied to date. In my lab, these questions are addressed with behavioural assays and GC-MS analyses.
At the community level, I am interested in patterns of co-occurrence and their ecological causes. This includes detecting the patterns themselves, as well as studying niche differentiation or e.g. competition trade-offs to assess their potential for coexistence vs. competition. Together with collaborators, I develop statistical instruments to analyze quantitative interaction networks (such as plant-pollinator or plant-herbivore networks, but also co-occurrence networks of ant communities). These techniques are based on statistical models that estimate the realized deviation from an expected null model. They can be used to infer the degree of specialization of species and communities and to identify specialized associations. At the moment I am using these methods to analyse the ant communities of a tropical rainforest in Borneo.
Topics for research practicals, bachelor, diploma or master theses:
- ecology of ants in habitats around Mainz
- chemical ecology of ants: influence of cuticular hydrocarbons on species recognition, intra- and interspecific tolerance and e.g. waterproofing properties of the cuticle
- ant-ant interactions
- ant-aphid interactions
- field work
- behavioural experiments in the lab
- chemical analyses (GC-MS)
- population genetics
Menzel F, Kriesell H, Witte V (submitted): Parabiotic ants: the costs and benefits of symbiosis
Binz H, Bucher R, Entling MH, Menzel F (submitted): Knowing the risk: wood crickets differentiate between spider predators of different size and commonness
Menzel F, Blüthgen N, Tolasch T, Conrad J, Beifuß U, Beuerle T, Schmitt T (submitted): Crematoenones – a novel substance class exhibited by ants functions as appeasement signal.
Menzel F, Staab M, Chung AYC, Gebauer G, Blüthgen N (2012): Trophic ecology of parabiotic ants: Do the partners have similar food niches? Austral Ecology 37: 537-546
Menzel F, Schmitt T (2011): Tolerance requires the right smell: first evidence for interspecific selection on chemical recognition cues. Evolution 66-3: 896-904
Lang C, Menzel F (2011): Lasius niger ants discriminate aphids based on their cuticular hydrocarbons. Animal Behaviour 82: 1245-1254
Menzel F, Woywod M, Blüthgen N, Schmitt T (2010): Behavioural and chemical mechanisms behind a Mediterranean ant-ant association. Ecological Entomology 35: 711-720
Menzel F, Pokorny T, Blüthgen N, Schmitt T (2010): Trail-sharing among tropical ants: interspecific use of trail pheromones? Ecological Entomology 35: 495-503
Menzel F, Blüthgen N (2010): Parabiotic associations between tropical ants: equal partnership or parasitic exploitation? Journal of Animal Ecology 79: 71-81
Menzel F, Schmitt T, Blüthgen N (2009): Intraspecific nestmate recognition in two parabiotic ant species: acquired recognition cues and low inter-colony discrimination. Insectes Sociaux 56: 251-260
Menzel F, Blüthgen N, Schmitt T (2008): Tropical parabiotic ants: Highly unusual cuticular substances and low interspecific discrimination. Frontiers in Zoology 5: 16
Menzel F, Linsenmair KE, Blüthgen N (2008): Selective interspecific tolerance in tropical Crematogaster-Camponotus associations. Animal Behaviour 75: 837-846
Blüthgen N, Fründ J, Vázquez DP, Menzel F (2008): What do interaction network metrics tell us about specialization and biological traits? Ecology 89: 3387-3399
Blüthgen N, Menzel F, Hovestadt T, Fiala B, Blüthgen N (2007): Specialization, constraints, and conflicting interests in mutualistic networks. Current Biology 17: 341-346
Zhou P, Menzel F, Shaw J (2007): Systematics and population genetics of Sphagnum macrophyllum and S. cribrosum (Sphagnaceae). Systematic Botany 32: 493-503
Blüthgen N, Menzel F, Blüthgen N (2006): Measuring specialization in species interaction networks. BMC Ecology 6: 9
Beaulieu F, Walter DE, Proctor HC, Kitching RL & Menzel F (2006): Mesostigmatid mites (Acari: Mesostigmata) on rainforest tree trunks: arboreal specialists, but substrate generalists? Experimental and Applied Acarology 39: 25-40
Menzel F, Kitching RL, Boulter SL (2004): Host specificity or habitat structure? – The epicortical beetle assemblages in an Australian subtropical rainforest. European Journal of Entomology 101: 251-259
Menzel F (1999): Anatomie der Farnpflanzen: Artbestimmung und Evolution. Jahreshefte der Gesellschaft für Naturkunde Württemberg 155: 107-133
Menzel F (1999): Leitbündelevolution bei Farnen. junge wissenschaft 56: 34-39